On Saturday the 8th of February at the Tescos supercentre at Solent Road in Havant in Hampshire, Tescos launched a brand new bulk buy section located next to the existing Home and Health and Beauty sections. Any customer who wanted to buy large sized packs of some of their favourite branded products can help themselves to the large boxes and bottles from this capacious area and then stack them in their trolley.
The section is flagged by big signs all the way along the aisles at head height that read Bulk Buys in big black letters on a brown background. Yellow chevron graphic patterns reminiscent of roundabout signage or a truck or tractor tire marks, all pointing the same way complete the shop’s new ‘rough and ready’ look. “Buy more,save more” is the slogan and all customers are invited to ‘top up on top brands’.
In the centre of the aisle are big round stacks of canned drinks piled up as high as stocks and health and safety will allow. Boxes of tea bags, oats, biscuits and cereals are arranged on pallets in a way that would more usually be found in low cost German supermarkets like Aldi and Lidl. Heavy bottles of washing liquids and softeners are piled high and sold for simple rounded figures like ten pounds. Pots of coffee that will power the office for weeks and trays of baked beans complete the assortment along with massive bags of loo rolls.
So why has Tesco decided to open a ‘cash and carry’ style section? It could be that it thinks customers want to stock up on basics before any change of Brexit legislation negatively impacts imported food and grocery prices. New ideas are definitely needed to entice shoppers in a competitive market. The British Retail Consortium “estimates 85000 jobs were lost in the last year.” (1)
Catering trade owners and anybody who runs a small business will most likely be interested in checking out Tesco’s new offering. The grocery market leader hopes the initiative will attracts fresh visitors to selected stores nationwide. In 2018 Tescos purchased the wholesale giant Booker.
In stark contrast to the downward trend affecting most retailers in the UK, in 2019 the public limited company Tesco reported that group sales were up 11.5% and the groups latest buoyant financial report stated a healthy operating profit of £2153 million.
All the big supermarkets in the UK have been accused of not doing enough to reduce unnecessary waste. Some of the packs of cans had several layers of plastic wrapping and cardboard to protect the multi-packs containing more than a dozen individual items. This bulk buy range may be good value but it is not necessarily a smart environmental choice. A oversized glass coffee jar would be a better option as the glass can be reused or recycled. Sensible caution will need to be shown by consumers that they were not buying more than they would practically use.
Overconsumption is also a problem that contributes to environmental problems and inequality. ‘Pile it high and sell it cheap’ is here to stay this season at Tescos but it is worth being mindful of the old biblical saying “everything in moderation.”
(1) ‘Nation of shopkeepers? Not any more and that’s all to the good’ Matthew Lynn, The Daily Telegraph 26 October 2019.
(2) Tesco Annual Report 2019 Tescos Annual Report 2019